Mindful Eating Weight Loss Challenge
I’m setting myself a challenge! My goal is to lose 10 pounds in 14 weeks, without strict dieting. This averages out at between half to one pound loss per week. I plan to do this through mindful, healthy eating, alongside my usual levels of physical activity (various walking/jogging 3-4 times per week). The purpose of this mindful eating weight loss challenge is to show how gradual weight loss can be achieved without having to follow unenjoyable, restrictive, rule-bound diets.
There are several reasons why I’m setting myself this weight loss goal:-
ACCOUNTABILITY: I want to do a bit of research (using myself as guinea pig!) to observe the effects of accountability, ie to see what progress can be made when you tell a lot of people (using social media) that you intend to lose a certain amount of weight in a specific amount of time; how being accountable to others determines both motivation and success.
FLEXIBLE EATING AND WEIGHT LOSS: I have chosen a goal of 10 pounds in 15 weeks as this will not be rapid weight loss- slower weight loss will give me more flexibility; I also don’t need to lose more than this. I will still be able to do things I enjoy such as drinking alcohol (beer and red wine!), and I have a couple of short holidays away planned this Autumn as well as some social events, which will influence my food options and choices. The idea is that I don’t allow these events to act as barriers to my final weight goal. On some days/weeks I will eat or drink more, or eat foods I might not normally eat, which won’t be the end of the world- this should encourage me to get back on track after such social events/holidays. At the same time I won’t allow such events to give me a licence to completely blow it on the food and drink front- I will do this by adopting a temporary ‘maintain not gain’ mindset- this can help to prevent the extremes of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ eating. A mindful eating approach encourages more ‘middle-way’ eating. Many people see social events or holidays as ‘roadblocks’ that get in the way of their weight loss diets- I want to inspire people by showing them that it’s still possible to lose weight gradually whilst confronting social events and holidays, accepting that weight loss will vary from week to week- some weeks I will lose more weight than others. For many people, social events are typically all year round and so they need to be approached with the right mindset so that they don’t hamper weight loss progress. It’s easy to put off that diet when social events and holidays are looming, which can mean that we never achieve our weight loss goals!
WALK MY TALK: I give one-to-one gradual weight loss support to people and would like to demonstrate that I can also ‘walk my talk’ by doing this mindful eating weight loss challenge. I regard my current eating and activity levels as generally good overall, but by doing some calorie ‘shaving’ and being a bit more mindful of my eating (making a few adjustments here and there), I want to show that it’s possible to lose weight without going on a diet- just tweaking your food and drink intake can make a difference.
LONG-TERM WEIGHT MAINTENANCE I want to lose weight slowly to give me a better chance of keeping off the weight long-term, compared to if I lost it rapidly. I therefore plan to keep my blog updated over a long-term basis with regard to my weight maintenance progress.
The overall aim of this mindful eating weight loss challenge is to demonstrate the benefits of gradual weight loss, to show how mindful but flexible eating can enable weight loss over 15 weeks, without me feeling that I’m ‘on a diet’ or feeling deprived. This exercise will hopefully inspire others to move away from a diet mentality; diets are often restrictive and unenjoyable, and tend to lead to short-term results only. They also encourage a ‘black and white’ mindset where you’re either being really ‘good’ (on a diet) or ‘bad’ (off your diet). It’s adopting a more ‘middle-way’ approach to eating that some people find challenging. This is because they feel that the only way they can control their eating or lose weight is by being ‘on a diet’, following rules with strict boundaries; or it might be that they’re impatient to lose weight, and the only way to get quick results is by going on a strict low-calorie diet. I also plan to share my experience of what it is to be accountable; telling people what your goal is can give you the motivation to achieve your goal but it may also make you feel under pressure- will the extra pressure work? It may depend on the individual. I hope to encourage people to think about what works best for them personally- could they themselves share their weight loss journey through social media as I’m going to do in order to make them more accountable, and thus effective?
I plan to update this mindful eating weight loss challenge blog once a week (on Fridays),with notifications of any updates being posted on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/emmarandallmindfuleating/
I will also weigh myself on Fridays. First weight reading (starting weight) will be posted below on Friday 15th September 2017.
Watch this space for forthcoming updates of my mindful eating weight loss challenge!
ENTRY 1: Mindful Eating Weight Loss Challenge Update: Friday 15th September 2017
So after starting my mindful eating weight loss challenge yesterday (goal: 10 pounds in 14 weeks), today is my first weight recording: 10 stone 5 pounds (66.7kg). This means I’m aiming for a target weight of 9 stone 9 pounds (62.9kg) . I am 5 ft 6.5 inches tall.
My journey will not just be about getting to this weight, but maintaining that weight long-term. Any lighter than this and I would struggle to maintain it. When you plan to lose weight, you have to think about whether your target is realistic and whether it will be a sustainable weight. It’s a weight I would like to stick to, but it’s important to remember that our bodies like to stay within a set-point, so what I don’t want to be doing is fighting my body! When we lose weight we are in a smaller body, which requires fewer calories- this is why people re-gain weight once they go back to their old eating habits.
In March 2017 I was 10.2, but am aware that I’ve had a busy Summer involving quite a lot of alcohol, and I would say that I’ve probably enjoyed a bit more alcohol over the last few months generally too. I do socialise a fair bit! Limiting alcohol will be one of my biggest challenges as I do enjoy it and don’t plan to give it up! Over the Summer I have remained quite physically active and fairly mindful of my food intake, but I have also been on quite a few trips where I didn’t eat as I would normally eat when at home.
Aside from watching my alcohol intake, I will be watching portion sizes and keeping sugary and wheat-based foods to a minimum. Only eating when I’m hungry too (which I’m usually quite good at- not always though! It depends on what social situation I’m in).
I find it a good idea to get into a routine with breakfast, lunch and dinner when at home, so I don’t have to think about it. Good habits need to become automatic as we can get ‘decision-fatigue’ when we have to think about what to eat each day. My meals (midweek, when I’m at home) are typically as follows:-
Piece of fruit (typically an orange, peach, pear or apple) followed by 3 tablespoons of porridge (made with water) with frozen berries, crushed flaxseeds and a teaspoon of sugar-free (‘Whole Earth’) peanut butter stirred in (the peanut butter keeps me going much better than porridge alone!).
I used to make myself a lot of salads, but I think I overdid it and got ‘saladed-out’ (!) so for a while now I have been having half a carton of soup (or homemade soup made with vegetables from the allotment, depending on the season) with one Ryvita (used to be two, but reduced to one several months ago), usually topped with goat’s cheese, mackerel or salmon and served with some cherry tomatotoes (or allotment cucumber, depending on the season). Healthy, simple and quick.
Piece of oven-baked cod topped with pesto, or salmon/trout, all with 2-3 steamed green vegetables (I only eat potatoes at weekends, when I tend to be in London and eat with someone else). Occasionally chicken stir-fry. I normally cook for myself midweek, but if I’m cooking for someone else midweek I like to be imaginative and cook something else (perhaps curry, meal involving a tomato-based or other sauce, or chicken stuffed with various fillings). In my twenties I usually ate potatoes, rice or pasta with my evening meals out of pure habit, but haven’t done this for years and don’t miss them. I do eat potatoes a couple of times at weekends. I also used to eat dessert (eg ice cream) but now I only eat dessert occasionally (perhaps when I go out for a meal or we have guests). At weekends, I do enjoy a square or two of chocolate after dinner but as part of my overall calorie ‘shaving’ I’m aiming to cut down on this as it’s easy to eat it out of habit, especially when I’m drinking a glass of red wine and others are tucking into the chocolate. I was a lot heavier in my twenties (I’m now 45), so better eating (and less drinking, compared to Uni days!) has definitely paid off.
I enjoy 70-85% dark chocolate if I fancy something sweet or for a snack- I tend to have two squares with a cup of tea or coffee as an afternoon snack, which keeps me going (dark chocolate has less sugar and more fat, which is more satisfying). As usual I’m aiming to not have a morning snack unless I feel the need; I find the porridge keeps me going until lunchtime anyway (depending what time I get up).
Future entries won’t be so long, as I decided to add a bit of background about my usual eating in this first one.
Next mindful eating weight loss challenge update: Friday 22nd September.
ENTRY 2: Mindful Eating Weight Loss Challenge Update: Friday 22nd September 2017
Well it’s been one week of my mindful eating weight loss challenge and I now weigh 10 stone 3 pounds, so I’ve lost 2 pounds!
Alcohol: Having 3 alcohol-free days definitely helped this week, and on Wednesday when I felt like having a glass of red wine, I measured out 175ml in a jug and sipped it slowly. This was actually very satisfying- sipping it slowly helped considerably. I would normally have at least 2 glasses, so this is a great new habit to get into when I’m at home midweek and fancy some alcohol. Measuring it really helped too- if you tell yourself this is all you’re having (be it food or drink), it can help you to savour what you have. I also experimented with this at home last Friday night, where I measured a 250ml glass. It lasted a good 2 hours!! So I then wanted to try a smaller 175ml glass. It’s great, as it’s a way to not feel I’m depriving myself of alcohol at the end of the day when I’m at home. I really enjoy beer but have a ‘rule’ that I keep beer for weekends or if I go out to a pub, and just have red wine at home. This ‘rule’ gives me clarity so that I know where I am. Having vague notions of drinking less can be too blurry, and so I find that setting up specific boundaries or rules helps me to be clear about my eating and drinking. These are not strict, rigid rules- I makes sure there is some element of flexibility if necessary, but I aim to stick with them for the majority of the time. With rules, we can often feel deprived, so it’s important that we all identify our own personal rules that work for us and which are practical, enjoyable and sustainable. I tend to do classes at my gym on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, so I don’t have (and I don’t miss) alcohol on these days. For me, being at home in the evenings can be a trigger for getting a glass of wine out at the end of the day, so those 3 days at the gym are good buffers!
A calorific weekend: Last weekend was quite high calorie as I met a friend in London during the day (Saturday) which involved daytime drinking (beer, apart from one Pimms) and a delicious vegetarian/vegan eatery with a buffet you help yourself to – the food was something I would never normally get to try, so I took small amounts of a variety of foods so that I could get a taste of all sorts of things. We even sampled vegan desserts to see what they were like (again, very small amounts of a few desserts). I didn’t get overly full as I was going to resume drinking beer in the pub, which is not fun on a very full stomach (!) so I was mindful of how much I ate but I also really enjoyed it and felt far from deprived! Normally, daytime drinking (and lunchtime buffets!) is a rare activity, so it was a one-off.
Dinner with the neighbours: Tonight I’m having dinner with the neighbours. I’m determined to not let regular social events get in the way of my weight loss challenge, so it’s important I maintain a ‘middle-way’, moderate kind of eating rather than having an ‘on/off’ mindset of either being ‘good’ or completely blowing it (which I used to default to years ago). This is where getting into the habit of calorie ‘shaving’ really helps me.
Activity: I ran twice this week (35 minutes each), though it’s been more of a jog as I have a leg injury, and I have also been semi-active walking, distributing leaflets. All steps add up!
- This week I’ve eaten 1 piece of fruit instead of 2 before eating my porridge (I already have frozen berries in the porridge); sometimes I buy a bit too much fruit for the week and find myself eating 2 at breakfast for the sake of eating up the fruit. So I will buy a bit less.
- I tend to have 2 squares of dark chocolate in the afternoon- this week I’ve been finishing off some pate (full-fat) from when guests came to stay, and found that the pate (on one Ryvita) really kept me going, so I omitted the dark chocolate a couple of times because I wasn’t hungry between meals (ie I didn’t just eat the 2 squares for the sake of it, out of habit). That’s the great thing about fat (the pate)- though calorific, it fills you up! But that’s where portion size comes in.
So I’m pleased with two pounds loss this week through mindful eating/drinking and some calorie ‘shaving’. To emphasise, this mindful eating weight loss challenge is all about losing weight without strict dieting. On Sunday I’m off to Italy for 5 nights, and will no doubt be eating some nice Italian food and drinking alcohol- I’m not worried about it as I will approach it mindfully with a ‘maintain not gain’ mindset. This means that I will still fully enjoy my food and drink but I don’t intend to overdo it.
Next mindful eating weight loss challenge update: Friday 29th/Saturday 30th September.
ENTRY 3: Mindful Eating Weight Loss Challenge Update: Saturday 30th September 2017
Last night I returned from 5 nights in Sicily. The purpose of this mindful eating weight loss challenge blog is to give an honest account, so here goes! When I weighed myself this morning, I certainly wasn’t expecting weight loss, but I wasn’t quite expecting the scales to say 10 stone 8 pounds either! So how come I gain 5 pounds in a week? I was rather slack on holiday, in terms of my eating and drinking, but my weight today doesn’t bother me as I know that when I eat wheat-based products such as bread, pasta, cake (and some beer), I get very bloated – this is pretty much guaranteed for me if I eat wheat-based foods regularly for several days on the trot- which I did. I then gain several pounds in weight as a result. As soon as I stop eating wheat, the pounds fall off again! So the majority of this weight gain is probably due to fluid retention, rather than the actual gaining of fat. In addition, when we overindulge, our glycogen stores (in the liver and muscles) increase- glycogen is the stored form of glucose, made up of glucose and water; when our glycogen stores increase it’s reflected in the scales (weight increase), and when they decrease, the scales reflect that too (weight decrease). I normally limit wheat-based foods as much as possible. Due to a change in diet, I also experienced a more sluggish digestion.
In the past when I’ve been on 2 week holidays, I might gain 2-3 pounds with increased consumption of alcohol and a change in my usual diet, but I did overdo wheat-based products during this 5 day trip- and ate more calories compared to usual. I do have a tendency to relax the rules on a shorter trip than if I go on a longer trip.
Breakfast: Options at the hotel were the usual yogurt, fruit, wheat-based cereal and bread products. Hard-boiled eggs, ham and cheese slices gave me the protein I needed to keep me going, but I chose to eat them in a white roll (no wholemeal available, as has often been the case in hotels I’ve stayed in abroad). I wouldn’t normally touch white bread. I kept up my fruit intake- for me, breakfast is incomplete with no fruit! I really missed my porridge.
Lunch and dinner: Although I didn’t eat any Italian pizza whilst I was away, I did eat other bread-based foods such as panninis, bruschetta and cake-type Italian desserts. I love trying new foods, and enjoy variety, and with it being just a short trip I made the decision to eat things I wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to eat. I ate some salads for lunch, but some were disappointing (lack of protein), or they were overpriced. It can then be so easy to opt for a sandwich- at home I rarely eat sandwiches, but they can be such a convenient option when abroad, or generally out and about- too convenient! My usual rule of only 2 courses in a restaurant went out of the window- most of the time I ended up having three. This was partly because we ate in the hotel restaurant four times, and the portions weren’t large- therefore I didn’t overeat in terms of overall quantities (I didn’t feel ‘stuffed’ at any point of the holiday), and I did opt for salad to start and fruit salad for dessert on some occasions. I also enjoyed a lunch time beer, in addition to beer and wine in the evenings.
Activity: I was on holiday with my mother, and there is a very significant difference in our fitness levels. Although we walked around various places that we visited, it was slow-paced for me. We also did two long coach trips, and with flights (3 hours coming back), we did a lot of sitting. I’m looking forward to going back to my usual activity levels this week.
I’m certain that now I’m back to limiting wheat-based foods I will ‘deflate’, so to speak, and this will be reflected in the scales- and the fit of my clothes! – next week. A very enjoyable short trip, and I’m confident about reaching goal weight in December. NOTE: (added 3rd October) As expected, I weighed myself out of interest 3 days later and had already lost 3 pounds with little effort, which just shows how easily weight can fluctuate with a change in diet for just a few days.
Next mindful eating weight loss challenge update (fortnightly from now on): Friday 13th October.
ENTRY 4: Mindful Eating Weight Loss Challenge Update: Friday 13th October 2017
I am on target! This morning I weighed 10 stone 1 pound (64kg). As I am not ‘on a diet’ but instead applying ‘flexible eating’ and calorie-shaving, I didn’t want to set myself an unrealistic goal over 3 months. The aim is gradual, not rapid, weight loss, with just half a pound or one pound (max) loss per week. So in 4 weeks since I started I’ve lost 4 pounds. That’s also taking into account several pounds weight gain during my holiday (even though a fair bit of that was probably water retention for reasons explained above), so I’m pleased with the result and feel that my mindful eating weight loss challenge is going well.
I was pleased with my meal out on Tuesday. We decided to have 3 courses and I made choices that weren’t all highly calorific. They weren’t exactly low-fat either, but I ate fewer calories than if I’d made other certain choices. For starter I opted for a piece of prosciutto ham with a coleslaw-type salad; I then had a chicken breast with watercress and saute potatoes- as you can see from the image below I did some good calorie-shaving and left almost half of the potatoes. I knew I had a dessert coming so I was mindful of how much I ate for the main. I felt completely satisfied leaving some potatoes, partly because I’d already had a starter and the chicken breast was also a good size. I also left the pot of sauce that came with the meal.
My friend and I have a favourite dessert when we go to this particular type of restaurant- frozen berries with a jug of hot white chocolate sauce! I nearly didn’t pour all of the sauce over the berries (to calorie-shave) but they were pretty frozen, so the point of the hot sauce was to defrost the berries. So I ate all the sauce but as the berries were a healthy, low calorie option, I didn’t feel I’d had an overly indulgent dessert (plus I had left some potatoes and the sauce at the main meal and had a wise choice of starter). A big incentive for three courses was that it’s an ‘early bird’ set meal (2 or 3 courses), and you just pay £2 for an extra course!
I bought one large glass of red wine and sipped it very slowly so that I had it during the entire course of the meal. In the past I would have had 2 glasses for sure. My goal is 3 or 4 alcohol-free days per week. It usually ends up being 3 max as I do quite a bit of socialising, so wine or beer are a regular feature, but because I’d just had the one glass all evening it didn’t feel like a full-on alcohol-filled evening (like I have at weekends where I drink beer as well as red wine).
Have aimed for 3-4 exercise sessions this week and so far have jogged twice, walked for 30 minutes briskly, plan another jog today and a cycle tomorrow.
I have been vigilant with portions this week. On Monday I forgot to buy or defrost soup, and I normally have half a carton and one Ryvita with full-fat goat’s cheese. Even though I didn’t have soup on Monday I still stuck to one Ryvita rather than having an extra one to make up for the lack of soup- full-fat goat’s cheese is so satisfying that I didn’t need two Ryvita. I find that careful thought before meals really helps me to make good decisions. I call it ‘intuitive’ eating, where you become skilled in working out what, and how much, your body needs.
I’ve had mainly white fish this week for an evening meal with 3 steamed green veg. White fish on its own doesn’t really satisfy me as it’s low-fat, so I always top it with pesto. A really simple, healthy and satifying meal. Tonight I’m having a turkey curry of some sort- I’ve had some lower fat turkey mince in the fridge for several months and so it’s time I ate it! I will enjoy it with a large glass of red wine- I would normally have 2-3 glasses but am aiming to sip slowly and have a max of 2 glasses.
Next mindful eating weight loss challenge update: Friday 20th October (I will be away at the end of October for a few days so unable to do a fortnightly update).
ENTRY 5: Mindful Eating Weight Loss Challenge Update: Friday 20th October 2017
I’ve lost another pound this week through mindful eating- I am now 10 stone! Please note, I have a traditional non-digital weighing scales, so I’m unable to report highly accurate digital readings to the nearest 10th of a pound!
For some people, this one pound weight loss could be considered slow-going, but the whole point of this mindful eating weight loss challenge exercise is that I’d like to demonstrate how I can lose body fat gradually without putting myself ‘on a diet’. I’d like to show how it’s possible to eat and drink in a flexible way without feeling deprived, and still lose weight. Afterall, it’s better to be losing body fat slowly rather than losing several pounds quickly each week that will be largely water loss; with significant calorie restriction we may lose 7 pounds or more at the outset of a diet, but a large proportion of this will be water as our glycogen stores become depleted.
Over the years I’ve gained the skills to eat mindfully- that’s not to say I never eat mindlessly, but I’m thoughtful about my food decisions most of the time, which means that I don’t often make food decisions I regret. I plan my food as much as possible and take time to think about what and how much to eat in a variety of situations. It just comes automatically to me now.
I have had a very busy week with work, as well as some travelling, which means that I have been less active than usual. I’ve done some pretty good calorie ‘shaving’ during this week’s mindful eating weight loss challenge though. I stayed with a friend last weekend and they always like naan bread with their takeaway curry- although I love naan bread, and in the past have had a corner of theirs to soak up some sauce when they’ve offered it, I declined the naan this time with the thought that I had enough to eat with my own delicious main dish plus chickpea dish on the side, and I didn’t have a yearning for the naan bread, I just focused on what I had in front of me and out went the uneaten half into the food recyling (in fact I put it out for the birds the next day!). On Sunday I went to a 1st birthday party and made some really mindful choices at the buffet, mainly watching portion amounts, but also choosing just one of the desserts rather than taking two (the two people sitting with me had 2 and even 3 of the three desserts on offer, but I felt very satisfied with just the one). At the buffet I opted for healthy options rather than eating just foods that would satify my taste buds but offer very little nutrition. There were some attractive-looking fruit kebabs with about 7 different fruits stuck through the skewers, so I enjoyed one of those with my other choices. I anticipated my evening meal, and because the party was 3-5pm I didn’t want to feel full by dinner time, so it was an incentive to eat lightly rather than completely tuck in (even though I hadn’t had lunch- this was because we had had a late morning brunch). There was no alcohol at this event, it was just tea and coffee, which did me a favour in terms of calorie shaving (I do enjoy a beer, oh yes, but I was then able to fully enjoy a couple of beers that evening instead). I spent the evening with one other person who bought an individual M&S dessert for themselves and I was truly tempted (and in fact it was a ‘lighter’ dessert option), but we had fillet steak, veg and homemade chips planned (made from the allotment potatoes) and I know that if I ever fancy something sweet after a meal I can have a square of dark chocolate, which I did. The other person didn’t end up eating the dessert in front of me anyway as they ate a piece of birthday cake from the party instead (I didn’t take a piece of birthday cake home with me- if I’d really fancied a slice I would have definitely taken a piece, but I wasn’t bothered). With mindful eating it’s good if you can get into the habit of being more selective with your food (and a buffet is a great example). Getting into the habit of eating what you really fancy (whilst trying most of the time to take into account the nutritional content of the foods on offer!) and then passing on the rest, can be really helpful- rather than mindless eating whatever is put in front of us.
In terms of alcohol, measuring out one glass of red wine (on days midweek where I do decide to have a drink), is providing me with a helpful boundary so that I don’t end up drinking more than one glass. Unless I actually go to a pub midweek which is unusual, I keep my ale and lager-drinking to weekends. That is a pleasure I am keeping on this mindful eating exercise, which, admittedly, is partly accountable for the slower weight loss, but it wouldn’t be realistic for me to cut out all alcohol to lose weight as it’s something I enjoy. This is where a diet would fail to give an individual sustainable weight loss results, ie if a person were to cut out ALL alcohol and then re-introduce it after losing weight, the weight is likely to just go back on! It’s important to be realistic and to allow for enjoyment. Mindful eating is helping me to get the results I want- gradually.
Next week will be an interesting challenge as I am going away on a short trip where I will be with people who really enjoy their food, so I will try not to be too influenced by the food choices other people are making and focus on what, and how much, I want to eat!
Further mindful eating weight loss challenge updates can be found here
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